Connecticut Science Center: A Perfect Day Indoors
I’ve learned over the past few days that I really do suck at multi-tasking. Trying to blog while sitting on the couch with a movie in the background does not make for good writing. Yet sitting at my desk with my husband typing on his computer next to me is a distraction as well so here I am back on the couch with no movie in the hopes that this post will be a little more well-written.
Stink and I first visited the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford when she was about 14 months old. We went with a friend who has two older children and while Stink didn’t get much out of the science center itself she was perfectly happy tagging along with her two best friends. This fall we decided to take her back when I read that the center had added a few new toddler-friendly exhibits and we were happy to discover that there were so many more things for Stink to explore.
The CT Science Center is comprised of 4 very large floors with roughly 3-5 exhibits per floor with the exception of the first floor which has the gift shop, ticket area, cafeteria, 3D cinema and a water play area. Brandon and I always start on the top floor and work our way down, stopping at the water play area last. We always bring a change of clothes but shoes still get soggy and wet so it’s always best to do wet things last. Because of Stink’s age and the fact that there are SO MANY things to do at the science center this post will focus on toddler-friendly activities only, with a smattering of preschool stuff because my sister and Ninja joined us on a trip in November.
The top floor (Level 6) has the rooftop garden (closed in winter) and quite a few toddler friendly activities. The first activity is the Digging for Dinos pit as soon as you come out of the elevators. Stink could spend all day just at this exhibit but at this age she tends to fling the tiny rubber “sand” with her brush and that doesn’t make for a pleasant experience for the other kids. This exhibit moves around so it’s not always on Level 6.
Next we stop at the River of Life exhibit which has all the live animals at the science center. There are aquariums with freshwater fish, tanks with turtles, snakes and insects and a marine touch tank. There is a small play area for kids 7 and under called Critter Corner but it houses creepy insects like tarantulas so the older kids usually climb on it as well. On the same floor in the Smart Energy exhibit we get our role-playing fix by playing in a little energy efficient house equipped with a kitchen, table and chairs and some books. Last week Stink discovered how awesome it was to pick everything up with oven mitts on.
The next floor (Level 5) doesn’t have nearly as many activities for Stink-aged munchkins but we still stop here for a bit. One side houses the Sports Lab and Picture of Health exhibits which we skip completely but Ninja thoroughly enjoyed putting various helmets through crash testing and Brandon and I enjoyed racing each other with our mind powers. The key is to relax your mind so it’s no small wonder that Brandon won every time.
Across the hall is the Invention Dimension and Exploring Space. The Invention Dimension has lots of puzzles and Legos and a small nook with giant blocks for kids ages 5 and under. We like to hang out in this nook because Stink has perfected the art of building and destroying structures. After a while I manage to persuade everyone to visit my favorite exhibit, Exploring Space. It’s a fantastic exhibit but unfortunately doesn’t hold Stink’s attention for long. She enjoys pushing buttons and blasting off into space in the Lunar Lander but other than that she’s done. On to the next level for us.
Level 4 houses the temporary exhibit which is currently Grossology and had one of Stink’s favorite activities: a slide and tunnel. Who cares that she’s sliding down an esophagus, landing in a giant stomach and then weaving her way through an intestine tunnel? She could ride that slide for hours if we let her. Ninja found some other cool activities here as well. I mean, what 5 year old boy doesn’t enjoy making various fart sounds with a tube and piece of rubber or playing a giant-sized game of Operation? Unfortunately the Grossology exhibit will be leaving in March 2015 and Stink will have to say goodbye to her giant stomach slide.
Across the hall on Level 4 is the Sight and Sound exhibit as well as the Forces in Motion exhibit. Stink enjoys the Interactive Video Floor which changes from pianos to bubbles to balloons every few minutes. She also helped Ninja build a car to race down a hill in the Forces of Motion exhibit but for the most part this area of the science center is a little too old for her so we make our way down to the bottom floor, Level 1. There is no Level 2 or 3 in the CT Science Center.
Level 1 has the water area as soon as you walk into the science center and hand over your ticket. It’s an unfortunate location because that’s the FIRST exhibit your kids see and of course the first place they want to visit. So far we’ve been able to distract Stink enough and jump on an elevator without her kicking and screaming to play in the water but I fear our time is coming. Still, it is an awesome exhibit and one you shouldn’t miss. You can use Legos to control the flow of water down a platform, float rubber balls along a current and play with other water toys as well. Smocks are provided but they only come in one size and are too big for Stink so we just skip wearing it. Outside the water play area are giant cushy blocks for building forts and houses and a quiet dark little nook with a small bookshelf filled with books. Conveniently located next to the water play area is a family restroom.
The Verdict: The Connecticut Science Center has done a really good job at providing exhibits that are appropriate for all ages. We were so pleased with our experience this fall that when we returned with my sister and Ninja we decided to go ahead and sign up for a membership. It will be a place that has activities Stink can grow into over the next year so each visit will have new and exciting things for her to discover.
What to Bring: An extra change of clothes for the kids is recommended for the water play area. The science center provides racks to hang your coats but if you need something more secure there are coin-operated lockers on the main floor. The cafeteria has a Subway but there is also a seating area for those who bring their own lunch.
Other Tips and Tricks: The CT Science Center has an excellent military discount. On Veteran’s Day admission is free for active-duty members and their families receive 50% off the admission rate. In addition the science center gives a 15% discount off annual memberships.
Child Friendly? Definitely! If your child can walk then they can enjoy the science center. Maybe not to the extent of the older kids but they can have a fun day nonetheless. As I said before, it’s a place that kids can grow into.
Pet Friendly? No